Genes in the Ghetto, Chromosomes in the Kitchen

On Wednesday 16 December, I’m hosting NYU sociologist (and NBER fellow) Dalton Conley, who is giving a public lecture at ANU on his new work at the intersection of the social and life sciences. The talk is free and open to the public, and I reckon it’ll be a cracker. Details over the fold.

Speaker: Dalton Conley, New York University

Title: “Genes in the Ghetto, Chromosomes in the Kitchen: The Search for Genetic-Environmental Interaction Effects” (with Emily Rauscher)

When: Wed 16 December, 12:30pm – 2:00pm

Where: Coombs Lecture Theatre, Coombs Building, ANU

Abstract: In this talk, I will argue that social science and genomics can be integrated ­ however, the way this marriage is currently occurring rests on spurious methods and assumptions and, as a result, will yield few lasting insights. However, recent advances in both econometrics and in developmental genomics provide scientists with a novel opportunity to understand how genes and environment interact. To presage my argument: Key to any causal inference about genetically heterogeneous effects of social conditions is that either genetics be exogenously manipulated while environment is held constant (and measured properly), and/or that environmental variation is exogenous in nature, ­i.e. experimental or arising from a natural experiment of sorts. Further, allele selection should be motivated by findings from genetic experiments in (model) animal studies linked to orthologous human genes. Likewise, genetic associations found in human population studies should then be tested through knock-out and over-expression studies in model organisms. I illustrate this approach using genetic markers and birthweight data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (AddHealth).

Bio: Dalton Conley is currently Dean for the Social Sciences, as well as University Professor at New York University. He also holds appointments at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service, as an Adjunct Professor of Community Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, as a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), and as a Senior Advisor to the UN Millennium Project. Conley’s research focuses on the determinants of economic opportunity within and across generations. In this vein, he studies sibling differences in socioeconomic success; racial inequalities; the salience of physical appearance to economic status; the measurement of class; and how health and biology affect (and are affected by) social position. In 2005, he became the first sociologist to win the National Science Foundation’s Alan T. Waterman Award, given annually to one young researcher in any field of science, mathematics or engineering. Conley holds a B.A. from the University of California – Berkeley and an M.P.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from Columbia University, as well as an M.S. in Biology from NYU. He is currently pursing a Ph.D. in Biology at the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology at NYU, studying transgenerational phenotypic plasticity and socially regulated genes.

Update: Christina Apps has produced an ANU flyer, which is here.

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